I clearly do not know how to handle children that have been put into my care. Surly teenagers, that’s my jam. Even pre-pubescent pre-teens I can handle. But young children, I haven’t a clue. I can’t even play Clue with them. I can’t play most games with them and the youngest is nowhere near ready for jigsaw puzzles. Those are my go-to moves and I can’t even use them, but at 6 and 3, there’s not much I can do.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these kids, but I think sometimes it’s hard to tell in the way I show it. They are my boyfriends’ girls and the most important two people in his life, even though we don’t get them often. They are adorable and funny, but also stubborn and annoying. They laugh, they cry, they puke, they sing, they dance, they whine, and they won’t eat the food we put in front of them (which, my sister says is total karma).
I probably come off surly around them, but I don’t mean to be. I don’t feel surly. I just want them to be good kids, and I tend to go over-board controlling on things that I feel responsible for (thank you responsibility strength). So, I end up telling them don’t do this and stop that more than I say good job and keep it up. I don’t mean to. Really I don’t. I just want them to be good kids. But what defines a good kid?
Just like in the classroom, I think what I need is a set of definite expectations and rules for the kids to be successful kids. That can help a lot with using positive language instead of negative language. Instead of saying “don’t complain” I can say “is that being grateful? No? Then let’s try being grateful instead.” I swear I did more of that last time we had them for more than a few days, but I think it may have taken a few days to get there. My boyfriend has even said, “I know you don’t like the girls” to me before, which hurts because it isn’t true at all and I hate that I might come off that way. I swear I don’t mean to. It’s hard for me to try and rationalize with a human or is unable or barely able to rationalize. How else are you supposed to interact with someone?
I think a lot of it is the blatant selfishness of the kids. But it’s not just them. It’s all young children. And they really aren’t that bad compared to other kids I’ve seen. It’s in their nature and enforced in our culture. With this land of plenty, they have room to want things because all their needs are met and then some. So, being a tiny, adorable human that the world clearly revolves around, they want and want and want. Then they are so disappointed when you say no, it makes it seem like they don’t care at all about what they do have and everything that you have given them and done for them. It’s hard to be nice to someone like that. It makes you not want to do things for them. So, I’ve been saying don’t whine and don’t be selfish instead of be grateful, and I come off like I don’t like them.
But they do like me. They shout my name and run when they see me. They give me random hugs that melt my heart. They call mean ‘aunt’ because they want to feel connected to me more than just some girl in their life. And they love for me to do things with them – when I can figure out what to do with them. I suppose they are quick to forget the “don’t do this” and “stop that”s that I feel like I am constantly saying to them. But I don’t. I hate feeling like I have more negative interactions with them than positive ones. In the classroom, it’s good to have a least a 3 to 1 positive to negative comment/interaction ratio. I wan’t to apply that with these kids, too.
Back to needing expectations. Expectations will help me keep the important stuff in mind and let everything else go. They’re still unique humans after all, and I need to let them be them instead of being so controlling. Below I’m going to try and sketch out some expectations and what they mean in order to be successful and happy children.
- I expect them to be respectful. This means saying ma’am and sir.
- I expect them to be polite. This means saying please, thank you, you’re welcome, and bless you.
- I expect them to be grateful. This means showing appreciation for the food they get, the things they get, the people they get to spend time with, and the places they get to go and things they get to do.
- I expect them to want things, but to be graceful about it. This means politely asking for something and then saying yes sir or yes ma’am and moving on when told ‘no.’
- I expect them to be healthy. This means eating a good portion of the vegetables and meat we serve them and staying away from anything with sugar.
- I expect them to be children. This means playing, laughing, singing, blowing snot bubbles, crying, falling, puking, and giving random hugs that melt your heart.
I understand that number 4 may still be unrealistic for the younger one. Maybe even the older one. Or maybe we just haven’t gotten a chance to work on it enough. At least with these expectations in mind, I can use more positive language to steer them towards expected behavior and away from negative behavior, instead of just telling them to stop the negative behavior.
I still have no idea how to handle the younger one when she completely ignores me telling her to do something. But her dad doesn’t seem to fare much better, so maybe there’s not a good way. Or maybe we’re both doing it wrong. Suggestions?
How do you interact with children this young? Do you have any games or activities that an adult could do with a 6 and a 3-year-old? We take them to parks and play places and the pool, but I want something indoors that I or we can do with both of them that doesn’t involve watching TV. Do you have any suggestions or insights for someone who isn’t used to interacting with young children? I clearly need some help in this area and would love to read your input, insight, and suggestions. Thank you.